News / Asia

WHO Describes New Chinese Bird Flu Strain as 'Lethal'

Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.
x
Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.
Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.
William Ide
A top World Health Organization official says a new strain of bird flu in China that has already killed 22 people and spread throughout seven provinces and municipalities is one of the most lethal of its kind to date.

A group of WHO specialists spoke with reporters Wednesday about the H7N9 virus, which has already infected more than 100 people in China. The WHO team arrived late last week for a five-day visit to learn more about the new virus.

According to Keiji Fukuda, the WHO assistant director for health security, at this point, there is still not enough evidence to show the virus can spread easily from human to human.

“When we look at influenza virus this is an unusually dangerous virus for humans…Based on the evidence that we see we think that this virus is more easily transmitted from poultry to humans than H5N1," he said.

Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.
x
Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.
Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.
The H5N1 strain of bird flu surfaced in 2003.  In the past decade, it has swept across three continents and killed more than half of the 622 people it has infected.

WHO and Chinese health officials stress the effort to understand the new strain is still in its early stages.

Liang Wannian of the National Health and Family Planning Commission says just how effective the government’s prevention measures will be remains unclear. He says the extent of the public health risk from the virus remains uncertain, as well.

"There are many unknown factors, including the source of the virus, the mutation of the virus, the pathogenicity, the virulence, the migration, the clinical symptoms and the epidemiological situation of the virus, so we need to study a lot, there are so many things that remained to be studied and learned," he said.  

Chinese and WHO scientists all agree that birds infected by the virus, especially poultry, are the likely sources of human infection.

Nancy Cox, director of the Flu Division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was also part of the WHO team.

"So far, no samples from migratory birds or their habitats have been positive for H7N9," Cox said. "In contrast, samples from chickens, ducks and pigeons have been positive for H7N9 from poultry markets.   Also environmental samples taken from poultry markets have been positive."

So far, the majority of deaths and infections from the new strain have occurred in Shanghai. Like many other cities where the virus has cropped up, authorities there have closed down live poultry markets, in response.

Anne Kelson, director of the WHO Flu Research center in Melbourne Australia said the market closings appear to be helping.

“We know that Shanghai rapidly on April 6 closed down their poultry markets in that municipality and it's been very encouraging to see that almost immediately there was a decline in the detection of the new cases and the cases that did occur all occurred in the next week, which you might expect to be within the incubation period of the virus," she noted.

Still, Kelson added that this is no reason to relax. She said close monitoring of the impact the closure of such facilities should continue in the weeks and months to come.

Although Chinese authorities said more than half of those infected have been individuals who had direct contact with poultry or birds, how the remaining number of those infected contracted the virus is less certain.

The government has carried out tens of thousands of tests on birds but only several dozen have turned up positive.

And, in one of the two cases of bird flu in Beijing so far, a young boy contracted the virus, without showing any symptoms of H7N9.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

New Yellow Fever Research May Lead to Improved Treatment

Researchers identify features of disease that may lead to more effective treatment More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid